A while back, we hosted a webinar entitled, “What Keeps You Up at Night?” during which we gave our readers the opportunity to share their concerns with a panel of experts. It was a wide-ranging and frank discussion that I hope you had a chance to experience. If not, the webinar is archived at our website.

I have a few concerns about the broadband future that we’ve been hearing about for quite some time. Perhaps you do, too. Yes, it all sounds very exciting. But I’m guessing that there are at least a few of you out there who wonder how it’s all going to get done, and what unseen hazards lurk in the uncharted waters. I imagine your thoughts might be similar to those that crossed the minds of NASA engineers after President Kennedy declared that the U.S. would land a man on the moon within the ensuing decade: Say what?!? Keep in mind that, at the time, the U.S. space program lagged far behind that of the former Soviet Union.

In an effort to bring some clarity to what lies ahead, we will be hosting a webinar entitled, “Implementing Broadband Communications,” during our first IWCE/UC virtual trade show, which will be conducted on Dec. 6. I urge you to participate in this totally free event.

My concerns about the broadband future have to do with money, though they’re not what you’re probably thinking. While some worry that the so-called congressional Super Committee won’t include D Block reallocation and LTE network funding in the national debt-reduction legislation that it is supposed to propose by Nov. 23, I don’t. If the language isn’t included, some analysts believe that any standalone spectrum-policy bill would have a difficult time getting enacted next year, a major election year. So what? It would be completely illogical at this point not to reallocate the D Block to public safety, which has shown that it has plenty of lobbying muscle. It also would be political suicide, I believe, for any member of Congress to take what could be perceived as an anti-public-safety position — and failure to reallocate the D Block would qualify — particularly in a key election year. The ball might be stuck on the 5-yard-line for the moment, but they’re going to get it into the end zone.

So, I still fervently believe that these vital airwaves ultimately will be shifted to first responders, and the network that would ride on them will be funded, though likely not quite to the level that the public-safety sector hopes. My fears then concern what happens next. Many public-safety agencies are seriously cash-strapped, so much so that we’re seeing fire-station brownouts and — in some cases — closures. How will smaller agencies find the money to operate and maintain their own much-ballyhooed next-generation technologies? The answer is that they won’t.

That’s why I’m so excited about the hosted-services model that some vendors are embracing, which I believe will be the saving grace. Last month, Intrado introduced a cloud-based 911 solution working in partnership with Tiburon and Shotspotter — now known as SST — that it says will dramatically reduce a PSAP’s investment in customer premise equipment.

Meanwhile, SST introduced at last month’s International Association of Chiefs of Police conference a cloud-based service called Shotspotter Flex that gets law-enforcement agencies functionality for a lot less than if they bought the system outright, according to Ralph Clark, SST’s president and CEO. An annual subscription to the hosted service costs between $40,000 and $60,000 per square mile, compared with $250,000 to $300,000 per square mile on a CPE basis.

VIDEO: Ralph Clark at IACP conference

“It takes away a lot of the friction points in respect to the total cost of ownership and the complexity of installing sensors, standing up servers and building networks,” Clark said.

Speaking of complexity, the hosted service provides access to a national center populated with acoustics experts who analyze any gunshot alerts that the system generates — a capability that even large agencies might not possess. These experts are able to determine whether the incident involves a single shooter or multiple shooters, big guns or small guns, or automatic weapons or revolvers.

“That will change your response profile, obviously,” Clark said.

Hosted services are a game-changer and may be the key to unlocking the door to the broadband future for the majority of agencies.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.